My daughter has a dodge stratus 2001 with about 150,000 miles she has had it for about 2 years. She has had it over heat a couple of times and has had it repaired simply fixing a radiator hose. It overheated again and it was almost empty of antifreeze. She has been filling up and checking the radiator level and fills it as needed, which could be daily or now only weekly. She took it to a mechanic who thought it was a blown valve-cover gasket and basically said the car repair would be more than the car is worth. I have a feeling the car did not get really checked out. She didn’t really know this guy and took it there because it was close to her. She is still driving it, but only short distances and always stops before it over heats. She really cannot afford another car for a least another year. Any advise would really be helpful.
The mechanic probably said head gasket vs valve cover gasket. If there are no other external radiator/hose leaks the symptoms point to head gasket. The repair for this will be in the $800 + range.
Yes, probably a blown head gasket. Unfortunately this is an expensive repair, and the car will keep overheating and possibly damage the engine if driven in this condition.
The blown head gasket can be verified by a mechanic by doing a pressure test on the cooling system, where the mechanic pressurizes the radiator, lets it sit overnight, and in the morning checks the system pressure. If it has dropped significantly, that indicates a blown head gasket. This might cost $100 or so if you can find a trusted local mechanic.
Once the head gasket leak has been verified, then you can decide what to do. A proper repair involves removing the engine heads, machining them flat to remove the warpage caused by the overheating, and installing new head gaskets. As Steve said above, this will be expensive.
Have her find a recommended local mechanic by either checking the Mechanics Files area of this website or using Yelp.
Yes, I afraid I have to agree with the head gasket diagnosis. I had a "96 Plymouth Breeze which shared most components and they- especially the 4 cyl.- were infamous for head gasket issues. Keep the cooling system full and it will run for a while yet, hopefully.
Is the radiator cap holding pressure? A pressure test of the cap is possible, but a new cap is cheap and might help. If you can hear the car boiling after a drive, it could be the cap.